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      Feature: From Hollywood To the Holyland - Tzvi Fishman's Odyssey

      Exclusive Feature: Former Hollywood screenwriter Tzvi Fishman tells his story from fame, stardom & wealth to the secrets of Kabbalah in Jerusalem.
      By Baruch Gordon
      First Publish: 11/28/2007, 1:20 AM / Last Update: 11/29/2007, 10:00 AM

      One of the revelations found in the Zohar is the doctrine of reincarnation. From his days as a Hollywood screenwriter, to the recent publication of his new book, "Secret of the Brit – Torah, Kabbalah, and Sex," author Tzvi Fishman has gone through several reincarnations in this lifetime alone, and also some incredible miracles. We spoke with him in his Jerusalem apartment, where he took time from writing his blog, "Hollywood to the Holy Land."

      Tzvi in Hollywood Days

      Behind him are bookshelves crammed with volumes on Torah. In the middle is a glossy, black-and-white photo of Fishman in his Hollywood days, looking like a sexy Tom Cruise, a far cry from the full-bearded baal t’shuva [returnee to religious observance] sitting before me. Fishman says he keeps the photo there to remind him that no matter how far he may sometimes fall in his service of G-d, he is still light-years ahead of the tinsel town role he was playing in Hollywood.

      IsraelNN:
      Your new work, "Secret of the Brit – Torah, Kabbalah, and Sex," is a striking deviation from your other books, where the principle, recurring theme is the importance of living in the Land of Israel. For instance, the hero of "The Discman" comes to Israel. Also, your reincarnation of the famous Tevye the Milkman makes Aliyah and builds a new life for his family in Palestine. The king in your "Kuzari For Young Readers" journeys off to live in the Land of Israel; and certainly Eretz Yisrael is a main focus of the books you co-wrote with Rabbi David Samson about the teachings of Rabbi Kook. How does your recent study of sex in the Zohar fit in with this?

      Fishman:
      "Secret of the Brit" isn’t a deviation at all. It is a natural continuation of the other books. I learned the hard way that it isn’t enough to live in the Land of Israel. We have to live here in a holy fashion. The foundation of the Brit, or Covenant, between G-d and Avraham is that the Jewish People guard their sexual lives in purity, as it says, "And G-d said to Avraham, therefore thou shall safeguard my Brit, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations."
      This principle of Shmirat HaBrit is stressed in the holy Zohar over and over again. Rabbi Kook himself writes that the detailed safeguarding of the holiness of our sexual lives must be the foundation of our rebirth and resettlement of the Land of Israel. He also writes that the study of the Zohar is one of the keys to Redemption. In my humble opinion, this is because the Zohar highlights the great importance of Shmirat HaBrit.

      IsraelNN:
      I always assumed that Shmirat HaBrit (guarding the laws of proper sexual behavior) was something particular to young people.

      Fishman:
      The Zohar repeatedly emphasizes the importance of Shmirat HaBrit to married couples as well. The sanctity of the marital act has a direct influence on all of the spiritual worlds, either opening or closing the channel of blessing, called the "Yesod," for both the individual and the Jewish People as a whole. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and all of the other masters of Kabbalah, assert that the majority of tragedies and hardships that we suffer stem from sexual transgression. In addition, the Zohar warns that the sanctity of the marital union has a direct influence on both the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our children. Let’s face it, with the pressures of modern living, and with the bombardment of pornography on the Internet, television, and the movies, and with the outbreak of immodest dress on our streets, it is easy to fall into sexual laxity. According to the secrets of Torah, the price we pay is dear. The Arizal explains that the "oneg"-pleasure that one feels from a sexual transgression, turns into "nega"-plague by a rearrangement of the Hebrew letters. For example, one small lapse, let’s say lustfully rushing to have marital relations during the day, can lead to a child that will be hyperactive all of his life.

      IsraelNN:
      I would like to follow up on this subject a little later. But first, I thought we would do a little detective work to try and figure out how you came to write a book about Jewish sexuality. When your book, "The Discman," was published, you gave an interview in Arutz 7’s Hebrew newspaper, "Besheva." You mentioned that your bar-mitzvah was held in a church. How did that happen?

      Fishman:
      When I was growing up, my family belonged to a Reform Jewish synagogue in New England. We went to shul on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, lit Hanukah candles, had a Christmas tree to be like the neighbors, ate matzah on the first Seder night and candy eggs on Easter. I remember the reform rabbi telling us in Hebrew School that the splitting of the Red Sea occurred, not through any miracle by G-d, but because a severe draught had caused the sea to dry up, and a freak, sudden rainstorm brought a flood that luckily drowned the Egyptians after the Jews had crossed on dry land. His explanation sounded so ludicrous to me, I didn’t want to even bother with having a bar-mitzvah. But my parents insisted. Since, the congregation had outgrown our old shul, and the new one was still under construction, my bar-mitzvah ceremony was held in a Unitarian church. To me, it is a perfect symbol for being a Jew in America, where you are totally immersed in a foreign, gentile culture. Growing up Jewish in America is like growing up in a church.

      IsraelNN:
      The tape is recording, so don’t wait for my questions. I know you have told your baal t’shuva story dozens of times to high-school students all over the country, so don’t wait for my leads.

      Fishman:
      After that, I went to a very prestigious private school in Massachusetts. Out of the 800 students, there were only a handful of Jews. We had to pray on Sundays in the basement of the campus church. Upstairs in this gigantic, impressive cathedral, the rest of the students and the faculty were gathered in prayer, and we were stuck out of sight in the basement, like we belonged to some low-rate religion. That’s how I related to Judaism also. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

      IsraelNN:
      The world is reading your every word.

      Fishman:
      Most of my graduating class was accepted into universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. I decided to go to NYU Film School where I spent four years in the dark, watching thousands of movies. The year after I graduated, I wrote a screenplay that became a Hollywood movie, called "Law and Disorder," starring Caroll O’Conner and Ernest Borgnine. I also sold a novel to a top New York publisher. I was sure that I was on my way to attain my dream of becoming "The Great American Novelist." Watch out Norman Mailer and Philip Roth! Here comes Fishman!

      IsraelNN:
      I am sure you have lots of entertaining stories from this period, but how about telling us a few things that affected your Jewish worldview?

      Travolta or Fishman?

      Fishman:
      Ever since my bar mitzvah, I abandoned G-d and Judaism completely. As you can see from my old publicity photo, I was trying to look as American and gentile as John Travolta. But there were indeed some weird events, as if G-d were trying to remind me who I really was, even in my darkest moments. For instance, the summer before my novel hit the bookstores, I decided to make a literary pilgrimage to Europe, in the footsteps of the famous American writers, Henry Miller, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway before me. I crossed the Atlantic by ocean liner and disembarked at the French port of Cherbourg. Remember, in those days I looked like that picture, clean shaven, with the long hair of a hippie, and without this giant beard. A Mercedez drove by as I was hiking with my backpack toward the city, and the driver yelled out, "Heil Hitler!" They were the first words I heard in Europe. It was freaky.

      IsraelNN:
      If I am not mistaken, that scene found its way into your novel, "The Discman."

      Fishman:
      A good novelist writes about what he knows. Anyway, when I got back to America, my novel had been published. So I went to the publisher’s publicity department and suggested they send my picture to TV talk shows. After all, I was a good-looking guy. They agreed to try a campaign with the State of Florida. Sure enough, five talk-show producers phoned back to book me on their shows. But when I flew down to Florida, I couldn’t find my book in the bookstores. Furious, I appeared on the talk shows and revealed all the lashon hora I knew about the publishing company. The talk-show hosts loved it, but back in New York, my editor was aghast. He phoned me frantically to apologize and beg me to stop, but I was angry about their screw up. At that time, the success of my book was the most important thing to me in the world. When I got back to New York, he summoned me for a meeting in his plush, skyscraper office. When I demanded to know what had happened, he answered, "The problem is your name." I didn’t understand what he was hinting at. My name? Fishman. What was the matter with my name? Then the light dawned on me. "You mean because I am a Jew," I asked incredulously. I mean, this was America, not Europe – the land of George Washington and the cherry tree. "That’s right," he admitted. "Look," he confessed. "My name isn’t Higgins, it is Cohen, but I changed it to get a job here. I bought your book because I liked it, but this company hates Jews."

      IsraelNN:
      That’s really something.

      Fishman:
      Not long afterward, the movie that I wrote was released with an all-star cast. The producer called me in and asked what kind of film I wanted to write next? I told him that I had read a great book about the Holocaust, a bestseller at the time, filled with action, courage, and romance. He rejected the idea, saying, "I’m not going to make a movie whose hero is a Jew." Even though my Jewishness wasn’t a big part of my life, I felt like he had spit in my face. But I was determined to make it as a writer, so I wiped off the spit and moved out to Hollywood.

      IsraelNN:
      Los Angeles is known as the city of Lost Angels.

      Fishman:
      That’s what it was for me. In a short time, I sold two more original screenplays that were made into films. I had money, a cool apartment by the beach, a sexy sports car, a membership at a health club filled with beautiful California girls – in short the American Dream. In the morning, I used to play racket ball with the great basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, and workout in the weight room with Arnold Schwartzenegger, who was just starting his movie career. After slimnastics class with Susie, Wendy, Cindy, Sally, and Jane, I’d spend the afternoon at the beach, working on my tan. Nights were spent prowling the discos, may the Almighty forgive me. When in Rome do as the Romans do. But the truth is that I was not particularly happy. With each new conquest and success, I felt that something was missing. I thought maybe if I sold a script for more money, or bought a fancier car, then I would be happy. But it didn’t help. Each new acquisition left me feeling empty. Now I know the reason for my darkness – even though I was wallowing in physical pleasures, I wasn’t giving any nourishment to my soul. Then I became physically ill.

      IsraelNN:
      If I remember correctly, you developed some kind of ulcerative colitis.

      Fishman:
      That’s what the doctors called it. I would have to race to the bathroom with a diarrhea attack twenty times a day, and only blood would pour out. It blew my mind completely. Here I was, rocketing up the ladder of success in Hollywood, and I had to spend half my day in the bathroom. I had to take large doses of cortisone, which blew up my face like a beach ball. Seeing myself in the mirrors of the health club, I didn’t recognize the monster staring back. Try making a pass at a UCLA cheerleader when you have a face like Quasimodo. After a month, the cortisone dried up the bleeding, but the minute I got off the drug, the bleeding returned, more furious than before. After a year of being sick, I started to see a shrink, figuring I must be screwed up. Years later, when I met the Kabbalist elder, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi in Israel, he explained that the bleeding stemmed from the immoral life I was living. The Zohar compares sexual transgression and the wasting of semen to the spilling of blood. I was being punished measure for measure. At that time, I hadn’t heard about Rabbi Akiva, and I didn’t realize that my bleeding was all for the best – a Heavenly wake-up call, so to speak, warning me that I was on a glamorous track to hell. For almost another year, even though I was bleeding my guts out, I kept on living my same sordid Hollywood life.

      IsraelNN:
      One second please. According to Rabbi Levi’s explanation, there are a lot of people, who aren’t exactly living holy lives, who should be walking around with ulcerative colitis.

      Fishman:
      Everyone has his own timetable and his own tikun [rectification]. The Almighty is patient and keeps a low profile, waiting for a person to wake up and do t’shuva [penitence]. If he doesn’t, it’s just a matter of time till the blow is delivered. At first, it comes as a gentle pat on the back. If the person doesn’t get the hint, then the warning becomes stronger. It may take the form of financial problems, or a marriage on the rocks, or a child getting sick, G-d forbid. If someone has abandoned G-d completely, the worst punishment of all can be that G-d abandons him in turn and lets him live out his life in ignorant bliss, saving his punishment for the fires of Gehinom and a reincarnation as a dog. I know people don’t like to think of these things, but the Zohar is filled with warnings and frightening descriptions of what happens when people continue stubbornly onward like mules. As our Sages have said, "the store is open, people are free to take what they please, but a notebook is kept, a hand records, and the storekeeper and his collector will enforce their due."

      IsraelNN:
      It sounds scary, especially to think that every dog you see on the street is some poor guy who made some mistakes in his life. [Fishman smiles. His eyes crinkle, and his face lights up like a 250 watt light bulb. It is hard to believe that this holy, very Orthodox-looking Jew is a former Hollywood screenwriter.]

      Fishman:
      After two years, when the medicine failed to cure me, I started out on a spiritual quest. I tried everything. Health food, macrobiotics, holistic massage, yoga, I Ching, acupuncture, gestalt, Tarot cards, not to mention a variety of mind-expanding drugs. One day, I was sitting on the beach when a friend asked me why I didn’t know anything about Judaism? The question hit me like a sledgehammer. I had studied world history. I had read Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant, Voltaire, Nietzsche, and Thoreau. I had studied the sciences, the arts, literature, and had checked out books about Christianity, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and the like. But I knew absolutely nothing about Judaism. Ever since the reform rabbi’s preposterous explanation of the splitting of the sea, I never thought to open any Jewish text. During my shrink period, I had read dozens of books about psychology, and I had studied enough Sigmund Freud to know that if you avoid something close to you, that means you have a psychological block, a deep inner fear which paralyzes you from discovering who you really are. My friend happened to be an Israeli. He was born in Morocco, to a religious family. They moved to Israel when he was nine. After seeing his first Charlie Chaplin film, he was hooked. When he finished his Israel Army service, he set off to America to become an actor. Today, he has a beard longer than mine. He lives in Safed, studies Torah all through the night in tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and organizes the Breslov community’s Rosh HaShana extravaganza in Uman. But way back then, he was just another screwed-up Jew like me, trying to make it big in Hollywood. Except he still had his childhood love and respect for the Torah.

      Reborn
      Reunion with Daniel Dayan in Israel

      IsraelNN:
      Your description rings a bell. Did your friend play the role of the rabbi in the recent Shuli Rand film, "Ushpizin?"

      Fishman:
      That’s him. After I moved to Israel, he became a baal t’shuva too, and moved back to Israel as well. He was the one who influenced the actor, Shuli Rand, to start a new life of Torah.

      IsraelNN:
      Why don’t the three of you do a film together?

      Fishman:
      We are waiting for Arutz 7 to go into the film business.

      IsraelNN:
      Good idea. But let’s get back to the beach.

      Fishman:
      His question blew my mind. The same day I bought a Bible and started to read: "In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth." When I read those words, my gaze shot up to the sky. "Oh, no!" I thought. "G-d really exists, and I haven’t paid any attention to Him since my bar mitzvah." I kept turning pages as if I were reading the screenplay of an action adventure. G-d tells Avraham to go to the Land of Israel. Then He tells Moshe to free the Jews and take them to the Land of Israel. Over and over again, G-d tells the Jews that He is given them the commandments of the Torah to do them in the Land of Israel. The Land of Israel, the Land of Israel, over and over. At the time, I knew nothing about Eretz Yisrael. Sure, I had probably had heard about the Yom Kippur War, but as a super assimilated Jew, Israel was simply not a part of my weltanschauung. Yet according to the simple, straightforward reading of the Bible, it was clear that G-d wanted His People to live in the Land of Israel, and not in Los Angeles or New York.

      IsraelNN:
      What happened then?

      Fishman:
      I bought a book about the foundations of Judaism. Rosh HaShana was coming, and I read about Tashlich. So on Rosh HaShana day, I walked down to the beach and threw my cortisone pills into the Pacific Ocean. "Please
      G-d," I begged. "Accept these pills as my sins and please heal me without any more medicine."

      IsraelNN:
      Wow! That was quite a drastic step, throwing your cortisone into the ocean.

      Fishman:
      I had tried everything else, and I was convinced that my separation from G-d was the source of my problems. But without the medicine, I became sicker and sicker. I started bleeding profusely. Within a short time, I lost twenty pounds. Finally, I had to be hospitalized.

      IsraelNN:
      Back to the cortisone.

      Fishman:
      That’s right. At least for the ten days that I was in the hospital. The minute I got out, I stopped once again. I figured that by relying on the cortisone, I would never get down to the source of the problem. Once again, I started to bleed. One evening, I became really scared, thinking that if I kept up this insanity, either I would bleed to death, or I would have to have my colon surgically removed. That night I had a dream. I was in a second-hand clothes shop, looking at old clothes when I spotted a door to another room. Curious, I stepped inside. The inner room was filled with books in Hebrew, four walls of bookshelves stacked with holy Jewish texts, like the study hall of a yeshiva. I couldn’t read Hebrew at that time, but I was filled with a profound sense of peace and inner calm. I just wanted to stand there and soak in the holiness of the books. But the shop owner appeared and said he wanted to close the store. I begged him to let me stay another five minutes, just to stand there and look at the books. Grudgingly, he agreed. That’s when I saw another door to yet another inner room. Venturing forward, I stepped inside. The room was empty except for a huge black box in the center of the floor. It was a giant tefillin, looking like some gigantic oversized prop in a Woody Allen movie. Gazing at it, my heart swelled with love. Man how I wanted that tefillin. Suddenly, I heard a tremendous thunderous Voice From Above, like a Voice out of Sinai, proclaiming, "This is the answer! You have to attach yourself to G-d!" I awoke startled. My heart was pounding. The Voice still rang in my ears. It was the clearest, truest, most real experience I had ever heard in my life.

      IsraelNN:
      You know your dream is amazingly similar to the dream of the King at the beginning of the book, "The Kuzari." In his dream, an angel appears and tells him that his desire to get close to G-d is pleasing, but that his actions are not the right actions. That’s the catalyst that sets the King off on a quest to find the actions pleasing to G-d, which turn out to be the commandments of the Torah.

      Fishman:
      I see you’ve done your homework. That similarity is one of the reasons I wrote "The Kuzari For Young Readers." But way back then in Hollywood, I had never heard of "The Kuzari," and I was still a long way off from making a commitment to Torah. I was so shaken up by the dream that the next morning, I went to an Orthodox shul and asked the rabbi to show me how to put on tefillin. He happily agreed and told me to say the Shema Yisrael prayer, which I still remembered from Hebrew School. But even though I would return to the synagogue every morning to put on tefillin, I was still bleeding profusely. Finally, I decided that I had to continue taking the cortisone. That very same morning, my uncle phoned, asking if I could drive him to the hospital. He had to have laser surgery on a cataract, so he needed someone to drive him home afterward. Since my aunt was a doctor, I asked him if she could write me out a prescription for the cortisone, because I wanted to avoid the tortuous medieval examinations I always had to suffer whenever I went to the gastroenterologist. When I met him later that morning, he handed me the prescription. At the hospital, all during his treatment, I stood outside the operating room and prayed the same mantra over and over, "G-d, please heal my uncle. G-d, please heal my uncle." For forty-five minutes straight. Thank G-d, the laser treatment was a success. When I returned to my apartment, I headed straight to the bathroom, as was my usual custom. But this time, there was no bleeding! The blood had vanished. Disappeared! No more! I felt like G-d had reached out a finger, touched my belly, and healed my colitis. I was astounded.

      IsraelNN:
      Our Sages teach that when you pray for someone else, you are answered first. We learn that from Avraham and Avimelech.

      Fishman:
      I didn’t know that back then. I was absolutely dumbstruck by the miracle. "Am I hypnotizing myself with all of this religion business?" I thought. But the bleeding didn’t return. No doctor has ever been able to explain it. The cortisone had always taken ten days to turn off the bleeding, and here the bleeding stopped without taking cortisone at all.

      IsraelNN:
      That certainly isn’t an everyday event.

      Fishman:
      That’s putting it mildly. I was blown away. How could I continue on with my bohemian life of beaches and Hollywood discos after that? The next night, after not having bled the whole day, I prayed a heartfelt bedtime prayer. "Dear G-d," I said. "I don’t know why you have come into my life and done this great miracle for me. But I am certainly grateful, and I would like to make You happy some way in return. Tell me what You want me to do, and I will do it. When I read the Bible, it seems clear that You want the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel. So if You want me to go there, give me some kind of sign and I will go. If You want me to stay here in Hollywood, I’ll do that too. Maybe I can write Jewish movies, or get a job at some Jewish newspaper. Just give me a sign from Heaven, and I’ll do it."

      IsraelNN:
      You’ve got me at the edge of my chair.

      "Jerusalem My Chosen"
      It was waiting for me in my mailbox

      Fishman:
      The very next morning, when I was leaving my apartment, I noticed that I had mail in my mailbox. It turned out to be a large travel brochure. On the cover was a big picture of the Western Wall. The caption read: "Jerusalem, My Chosen." I got goose pimples all over my body. The very morning after I asked G-d for a sign whether to go to Israel or not, I find this travel brochure in my mailbox! Never in my life had I ever received any kind of Jewish mail from any kind of Jewish organization. Remember, I was totally assimilated. Once again, my head started spinning in circles. "There is a director greater than Steven Spielberg," I thought. Not only had G-d answered my prayer for a sign, He had obviously known in advance that I would make such a request, because He had to arrange that someone would mail me the brochure, so that it would arrive in my mailbox the very morning after my prayer!

      IsraelNN:
      Are you sure this is something that really happened, and not one of your imaginative short stories?

      Fishman:
      That very day, I purchased a ticket to Israel. Before going, I decided to visit my parents for a week, since who knew how long I was going to be in Israel? The first morning at home, my Dad called from work, saying that he bumped into an old friend of mine who wanted to see me. So I drove over to the bookstore where the guy worked. As I am talking to him about my upcoming trip to Israel, a very attractive woman enters the store and starts browsing up and down the aisles. "That’s a coincidence," he says. "She’s an Israeli." She came to the cash register, holding a book on Kabbalah. When my friend introduced us, her face lit up, ecstatic to meet the writer of the popular novel that everyone in my hometown was talking about. Nationwide, sales had been disappointing, but in my hometown everyone had read it, certain that the novel’s characters and scandalous intrigues were based on the people of our town. When my friend told her that I was on my way to Israel, she invited me to her apartment, saying she would give me the names of a lot of influential people. She said her "divorced" husband was a TV celebrity who knew everyone in Israel. When we arrived at her pad, she excused herself, saying she wanted to change into something more comfortable. "Uh oh," I thought. At that time, I hadn’t learned about Yosef and Potifar’s wife, so I had to resist on my own. It was another miracle that I didn’t succumb to her charms. I was rewarded with a long list of names of people in Israel, one being an old lady in Jerusalem, an incredibly holy tzaddekis, like a prophetess out of the past, who let me stay at her home, as if I were part of the family. Every morning, she would wake me at five and push me out the door, tefillin in hand, to pray at the Kotel.

      IsraelNN:
      This interview is getting pretty long, and if I weren’t the editor, my editor would kill me. So that’s when you made Aliyah?

      A Mikvah a Day

      Fishman:
      No. On that first visit, I traveled all over the country trying to find G-d. I prayed at the gravesites of all of the tzaddikim, dunked myself in all of the holy mikvahs, and hung out for hours at the Kotel whenever I was in Jerusalem. A lot of times, Rabbi Schuster would approach me and ask if I wanted to learn in yeshiva, but I always said no. In my mind, going to yeshiva was like going back two hundred years to the ghettos of Poland. I didn’t want to learn Torah. I wanted to find G-d. See what a knucklehead I was! One thing was certain. I knew I had to make Israel my home. Everything here was Jewish. The language, the street signs, the food, the bus drivers, the soldiers, the cities, the Biblical mountains of old. For someone who wanted a true Jewish life, Eretz Yisrael, and not Los Angeles or New York, was obviously the place to be. As Tevya would say, to make a long story short, one day, a rabbi whom I had befriended grabbed me by the collar and took me to a Zionist yeshiva called Machon Meir. He sat me down in the beit midrash, and we started to learn, surrounded by enthusiastic young people wearing colorful, knitted kippot and speaking Hebrew with Israeli, English, French, and Russian accents - Jews from all over the world. Suddenly, flanked by shelves of Mishna, Talmud, and tomes of Jewish Law, I experienced the same feeling of serenity and wholeness that I had felt in my dream of the room filled with holy books. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of the presence of G-d. His light filled the yeshiva. It radiated out of the books. It shone from the happy faces of the students. From that moment on, I was hooked.

      IsraelNN:
      That was it? Goodbye America?

      Fishman:
      Not quite. After a few months of bliss, catching up on all the learning I had avoided, my parents phoned from America, insisting I come home for a big party celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. For two weeks, I debated whether or not to go. On one hand, honoring one’s parents is a huge mitzvah. But so is learning Torah in Israel. Finally, I decided to make my parents happy. When the plane landed at JFK, on the way to pick up my luggage, I felt I had to go to the bathroom. Believe it or not, my bowels burst open and a raging flood of blood poured out. "Oh no!" I shuddered. "Why did I come back to America?" It was a clear sign to me that G-d wanted me to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that America wasn’t for me. That the one and only healthy place for a Jew, physically, mentally, and spiritually, was in Israel. When I saw my parents, I told that I was returning to Jerusalem immediately after their party. The next day, when I came home from doing some errands, I found a note on the kitchen table from my father saying that my mother had felt pains in her heart, and that he had rushed her to the hospital. When I reached the emergency room, a doctor came out and said, "Do you know what you are doing to your mother?" I was floored. "She is miserable that you are moving to Israel," he declared.
      "What can I do?" I responded. "I have my own life to live." He looked at me sternly, then grinned. "Don’t worry," he said. "Your mother will be all right. It’s just palpitations. The truth is, I once wanted to move to Israel. But my mother was against it, and I was a chicken. So if you have the desire and courage to go, then go. Your mother will be all right."

      IsraelNN:
      If I remember correctly, your parents eventually moved to Israel too.

      Fishman:
      That’s right. We live in the same building in Jerusalem.

      "You shall honor thy father and mother."

      IsraelNN:
      I’ll let our readers learn about that part of your life from the article you wrote for INN about your encounter with the Kabbalist elder, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi. To sum up, I’d like to get back to my original question. What brought you to write a book about Torah, Kabbalah, and Sex?

      Fishman:
      You are putting me on the spot. The truth is, even though the Land of Israel is the ultimate stop for a Jew, the story doesn’t end there. In fact, coming home to Israel is just the beginning. Just like with our Forefathers, everyone has his share of trials and tests that G-d sends to bring us higher and higher in His service. In my case, I slipped a disc and walked around in pain for months. After meeting the Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, I had an amazing revelation. Slipped discs, like colitis, and a lot of other ailments, are G-d’s way of calling us back to Him. In my case, I suddenly realized that I had been lax in obtaining the level of holiness that a Jew is required to maintain in his sexual life. I was doing things that, while they may be permitted in the boundaries of Jewish Law, they were certainly not in the spirit of the marital sanctity that our Sages exhort us to achieve. After reading Rabbi Levi’s writings on Shmirat HaBrit and learning about the painful consequences of sexual laxity, the "asimone nafal," meaning I suddenly realized where things had gone wrong. With a dazzling clarity, the pieces of my life puzzle fell into place. Like I said – it isn’t enough just to live in the Holy Land. We have to live here in a holy fashion. And that also holds true for all of the Jews still in Hollywood and New York. Wherever he is, a Jew is bound by a higher Divine standard.

      IsraelNN:
      I guess like you said, a good writer writes about what he knows. But I have heard people say that the sexual safeguards mentioned in your book fall into the category of Kabbalistic stringencies. Are you sure your new book is for everyone?

      Fishman:
      A Jew isn’t just someone who eats bagels, gefilta fish, or felafal. Whether he acknowledges it or not, a Jew is a unique holy being, blessed with a Divine code of living. Ever since G-d made His covenant with Avraham, the Jewish People have been called upon to guard the sanctity of their sexual life. It turns out that not everything you see in the movies is kosher for a Jew. The point is, when it comes to sexual relations, because of the great yetzer and passions involved, there are many sound rules that are often overlooked, and this is where a lot of our troubles begin – both for the individual and for the Jewish Nation as a whole.

      IsraelNN:
      There is a philosophy that maintains that precisely because the sexual urge is so hard to control, that it is best not to speak openly about these matters, lest a person be brought to depression and despair when he realizes the gravity of his mistakes.

      Kabbalist Elder, Rabbi Leon Levi

      Fishman:
      Do you let a guy fall off a cliff, or do you yell out to save him? Rabbi Leon stresses that when it comes to Shmirat HaBrit, it is not knowledge that brings people to despair, but rather the lack of it. When people learn that there is a tikun, and a way to a happier, holier existence, they discover a new joy in their lives. G-d didn’t stamp the sign of the Covenant on our forehead, our arm, or our mouth. The holiness of our sexual lives, more than anything else, distinguishes our holy calling as Jews. G-d didn’t bring us back to the Holy Land for us to create another Hollywood, or to turn Disengorf Street into Sunset Strip. With G-d’s help and kindness, we have come back and rebuilt our Promised Land. Now is the time to infuse it with more and more holiness. G-d willing, that is what the book, "Secret of the Brit," and the website: jewishsexuality.com are all about.

      IsraelNN:
      Anyone who has read your INN blog "Hollywood to the Holy Land" can’t help but notice that you are pushing readers to your Jewish sexuality website. Some people say the Internet is too open a forum for these intimate matters.

      Fishman:
      Today, the pornography on the Internet is our number one spiritual enemy, and it is important that guidelines of Torah be out there, so people have the ammunition to defend themselves.

      IsraelNN:
      Do you really think that swatting away with your pen at the windmills of porn in the world will really have a lasting effect?

      Fishman:
      We receive a lot of thank-you emails for having introduced people to a holier way of living. As our Sages say, if you save one Jew, it is like you have save the whole world. Anyway, it certainly beats writing trash movies in Hollywood.

      This interview was originally posted on Tzvi Fishman's Blog.